Gov. Bill Lee on Friday detailed a social contract he is calling “The Tennessee Pledge” — the guidelines under which he is encouraging most of the state’s restaurants and retail establishments to reopen next week.
Under his plan, restaurants in 89 of the state’s 95 counties (not including Davidson County or other major metro areas) can reopen beginning Monday at half capacity, with retail businesses to follow on Wednesday.
There is no enforcement mechanism in the pledge, which Lee said he expects industries and customers to honor. In addition to asking restaurants to limit occupancy to half of capacity, the governor recommended employee face masks and gloves, six feet between tables, groups limited to six people, no live music and bar areas kept closed. The guidelines also suggest that customers be screened with questions about COVID-19 symptoms.
The governor cited a reported downward trend in flu-like and COVID-like symptoms at “almost every hospital” in the state as a reason he was comfortable with the reopening, as well as a downward trend in the rate of case growth. Recent days, however, have seen spikes in new cases, which Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey attributed in part to targeted testing at prisons.
The reopening plan is being spearheaded by Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell, who said Tennessee is not yet encouraging tourists to return to the state but is instead prioritizing retail and restaurant businesses.
“We are not returning to business as usual,” he said.
Lee stopped short of fully encouraging Tennesseans to return to dine-in restaurants on Monday. He said he wants Tennesseans to “engage in that as they feel so fit.”